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Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Luiz Razia

Full name: Luiz Tadeu Razia Filho 
Date of birth: 4 April 1989 (age 22)
Nationality: Brazilian
Currently: 11th in GP2 standings

Luiz began competing in autocross in his native Brazil before switching to karts. His first steps in single-seaters came in Formula Renault and Formula 3 in 2005. He finished tenth in the Formula Renault 2.0 Brazil standings, while in South American F3 he won two races on his way to sixth overall. He remained in F3 for another year in 2006, taking seven wins from 16 races on his way to the title.

He made his first appearance in Europe at the end of the year, contesting the final round of the International F3000 Master series (which would become International Formula Master the following season) at Estoril. He shone by winning all three races that were held at the Portuguese circuit.

Luiz's performances at Estoril led to him racing in the Euroseries 3000 championship in 2007. He contested the first half of the year for Fisichella Motor Sport, before switching to ELK Motorsport for the second half. Overall he scored four podiums and came third in the final standings. He remained in the series in 2008, winning twice and finishing fourth in the points.

Luiz moved into GP2 at the end of 2008, contesting the 2008-09 Asia series for Arden. He won the final race of the campaign in Bahrain after starting from pole position courtesy of the reverse grid system. He made a return to Fisichella Motor Sport for the 2009 main series, the team changing hands and becoming Coloni later that year. He scored his first points finish in the first race at Monza in September, before the second race after starting from pole.

Luiz switched to the Rapax team for 2010, and began the season strongly. He scored points in all of the first six races, including two second places in the sprint races at Barcelona and Istanbul. He then failed to score again until the final round in Abu Dhabi, picking up another sprint race second place. Meanwhile, his teammate Pastor Maldonado won the championship.

Luiz served as the test and reserve driver for the new Virgin Racing team in 2010, but switched to a third driver role at Team Lotus in 2011 after signing with the Norfolk squad's sister GP2 team AirAsia. He drove for the team in Friday practice at the Chinese Grand Prix.

In GP2 with AirAsia he scored another of his customary sprint race second places at Valencia, before scoring his maiden pole position in the series at the Hungaroring. He was unable to convert that into a win, but still finished on the podium in third.

Talent rating: Luiz showed well in F3 early in his career and was strong as well upon moving into F3000 in Europe. His time in GP2 hasn't gone so well, particularly at Rapax last year where he was well beaten by teammate Maldonado. He proved with his pole in Hungary though that he can be very quick on occasions. 7/10

Chances of getting to F1: Having bought his way into reserve roles at both Virgin and now Lotus, Luiz has certainly put his foot in the door and has also racked up some mileage. His GP2 performances aren't warranting a promotion just yet, but at 22 and with the backing he has, he's got a few years to put that right. 8/10

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Photo credits: GP2 and

Stefano Coletti

Name: Stefano Coletti
Date of birth: 6 April 1989 (age 22)
Nationality: Monegasque
Currently: 10th in GP2 standings

After winning the European ICA Junior category in karting in 2004, Stefano moved into single-seaters in 2005 in Formula BMW ADAC in Germany. He finished a lowly 18th in the standings. He remained in the category for 2006 and improved vastly as he scored one win and three other podiums on his way to seventh in the final standings. He also finished third in the Formula BMW World Final event at Valencia at the end of the year. He took part in four races in Formula BMW USA, winning three of them.

In 2007 Stefano contested the Eurocup and Italian Formula Renault championships. In the Eurocup he scored one win and finished fourth in the standings. In the Italian series he took two wins, both at the Misano round, and finished tenth overall.

Stefano stepped up to Formula 3 in 2008, racing in the Euro Series. He began the season with Signature-Plus, was left the team after two rounds having been dropped by Red Bull's Junior Team programme. He returned to the series at the fourth round with Prema. He scored three top ten finishes with a best result of fourth, ending the year 20th overall.

Stefano remained in the Euro Series in 2009 with Prema, and won the opening race of the season at Hockenheim. He finished third in the first race at the Norising, the third meeting of the year, but was then excluded after hitting race-winner Jules Bianchi after the podium proceedings. He only scored one further podium that season and finished tenth in the standings. He did finished third at the F3 Masters event at Zandvoort.

Stefano made his GP2 debut at Valencia in August 2009, signing with the Durango team. After retiring from both races there, he then crashed heavily at Eau Rouge at the end of the first race at Spa. After writing off the car he was due to be the team's only driver at Monza, taking over teammate Nelson Panciatici's car. However he was still suffering from the injuries he sustained and the team was forced to withdraw. The team did not contest the final race of the year at Portimao, either.

In 2010 Stefano contested a full season of Formula Renault 3.5, scoring five podium finishes and coming fifth in the final standings. He also joined the new GP3 Series after the first round of the season. He finished ninth in the standings after two podium finishes.

Stefano returned to GP2 for 2011 with Trident Racing. In the four-race Asia Series at the start of the year he won once in Abu Dhabi, scoring the team's first GP2 win since Monaco in 2008, and finished fifth in the standings. He continued that form into the European campaign, winning the sprint race at the opening round in Turkey. He scored another victory in the sprint race in Hungary, coming through from 21st on the grid in chageable weather conditions.

Talent rating: Stefano has shown promise at stages throughout his career, but has been unable to convert any of this into consistent results. Consistency remains an issue in GP2, but he has still picked up three wins with a team usually found towards the back of the field. Only runaway series leader Romain Grosjean has won more races in 2011. 7/10

Chances of getting to F1: A move to a front-running team in GP2 could allow Stefano to be a title contender. If he can achieve that then, with a bit of financial backing, F1 could certainly be a possibility. He would become the first F1 driver from the principality since Olivier Beretta in 1994. 7/10

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Photo credits: GP2, BMW,

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Valtteri Bottas

Name: Valtteri Bottas
Date of birth: 28 August 1989 (age 21)
Nationality: Finnish
Currently: 6th in GP3 standings

Valtteri began his single-seater career in 2007, racing in the Formula Renault Northern European Cup and finished third in the standings with two wins. At the end of the year he contested the Formula Renault UK Winter Series and won three of the four races, but could not be crowned champion because he did not hold an MSA-registered licence.

In 2008 he continued in the NEC, switching from the Korainen Bros team to Motopark Academy. He dominated the championship, winning 12 of the 14 races he contested in the 16 race season. He also took part in the Eurocup with Motopark Academy, where he also won the title. He won five races to pip Daniel Ricciardo to the crown.

For 2009 Valtteri moved up to the Formula 3 Euro Series, driving for the crack ART Grand Prix squad. He scored six podiums and two pole positions to finish third in the standings as top rookie. Though he didn't win a Euro Series race, he did win the prestigous Masters of F3 event at Zandvoort in June.

At the beginning of 2010 Valtteri was signed by Williams as their test and reserve driver. He remained with ART in F3 for a title crack. He and ART suffered from a disappointing season, Valtteri only managing to win two races and finish third overall, as Edoardo Mortara ran away with the title. He did win the Masters again at Zandvoort, becoming the first driver to win the event twice.

Valtteri has switched to the GP3 Series in 2011, remaining with ART. Despite starting the season as the favourite he had a slow start to the season, with just one podium finish from the first half. He picked things up at the Nurburgring though, finishing third in the first race and then winning the second. He lies just ten points off the standings lead in sixth place.

Talent rating: Valtteri shone in 2008 with his double Formula Renault crown. He then impressed again with his maiden year in F3. Last year was tougher, as has been the first half of 2011. However, the talent hasn't just disappeared overnight and he remains a top prospect. 8/10

Chances of getting to F1: Valtteri's performances in his early career made F1 bosses take note, with Williams signing him up. That deal means he has his foot in the door already, but he needs to progress to GP2 and impress there before he can make the step up. 8/10

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Photo credits: GP3, Thijs Bekkema, F3 Euro Series, GP3

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Rio Haryanto

Name: Rio Haryanto
Date of birth: 22 January 1993 (age 18)
Nationality: Indonesian
Currently: 11th in GP3 standings, 10th in Auto GP standings

Rio made the step from karting into single-seaters in 2008, contesting the Formula Asia 2.0 series for Formula Renault cars. He won one race and finished third in the standings. He also contested 10 of the 14 races in the Asian Formula Renault Challenge, taking two wins and finishing sixth in the final standings.

For 2009 he moved to the Formula BMW Pacific series, driving for the Meritus team. From the opening 10 rounds of the season he won six times (including an emphatic four wins from four races at his home meeting at Sentul in Indonesia). The final five races of the year were all won by guest drivers, with Rio being the top regular driver and therefore receiving maximum points and allowing him to take the title with ease.

2010 saw Rio make the move to Europe to contest the brand-new GP3 Series with Manor Racing. Despite his relative inexperience at the age of just 17 he won at the second round of the season at Istanbul. He scored a further two podium finishes at Silverstone and Monza to place fifth in the final standings.

As the top driver in the Manor team he was given the chance to test for the sister Virgin Racing F1 team at the end-of-season young driver test at Abu Dhabi.

Rio has remained in GP3 in 2011, but failed to score any points in the opening three meetings of the year. He scored a fourth-place finish at Silverstone and then won in a rain-hit race at the Nurburgring, coming out on top of a late three-way fight for the win. He has also been racing in Auto GP for DAMS, finishing second in a race at Brno.

Talent rating: Rio was dominant in Formula BMW, and then shone in his first year in Europe in GP3 against more accomplished rivals. He has struggled this year so far but showed off his talent with his drive to victory at the Nurburgring. 6/10

Chances of getting to F1: Rio has attracted plenty of attention from his native Indonesia, and has good funding with it. He has already established links with the Virgin team, and also has time on his side to move into GP2 and do well there before making the step to F1. 8/10

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Photo credits: GP3, BMW, Pt. Kiky Sport, GP3

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Alexander Sims

Name: Alexander Sims
Date of birth: 15 March 1988 (age 23)
Nationality: British
Currently: Leading GP3 standings

After winning numerous titles in karting, Alexander made his single-seater debut in the Formula Renault UK Winter Series at the end of 2006, finishing his first car race in second place. He made the full-time step into single-seaters for 2007 at the relatively late age of 19. He finished eighth in the Formula Renault UK standings, scoring one win and two other podium finishes. He remained in the series with the Manor Competition team in 2008, where he scored the most points of any driver, but the series' dropped scores system meant he finished runner-up, with two wins and ten other podium finishes. At the end of 2008 he won the prestigous McLaren Autosport BRDC Award.

For 2009 Alexander made the step up to Formula 3, contesting the Euro Series with the Mucke Motorsport team. Despite his relative inexperience he finished fourth overall, just missing out on the rookie title to Valtteri Bottas, who drove for championship-winning squad ART.

Sims was signed by the Gravity Sports Management firm for the 2010 season, enabling him to continue in Formula 3 for a second year. He made the switch to ART, where he was expected to fight Bottas for the title. Unfortunately ART could not dominate proceedings as they had in previous years. A disappointing season saw Sims finish fourth again, with just one win.

In November 2010 Alexander completed a test with the McLaren F1 team at Silverstone, as a prize for winning the award in 2008.

For 2011 Alexander made the move to the GP3 Series, racing for Status Grand Prix. He won the second of ther races at the season opener at Istanbul, but then suffered two first-lap incidents at Barcelona. A podium at Valencia followed after topping the timesheets in a mid-season test, before he scored a double podium finish at Silverstone where he demonstrated fine overtaking to work his way through the field. This has given him the lead in the standings at the halfway stage.

Talent rating: After a good start to his single-seater career his stunning rookie year in F3 made everyone take notice, if they hadn't already. A member of both the BRDC's Superstar and MSA's Team UK programmes, Alexander has been highlighted as one of the UK's hottest young drivers. He suffered a tough second year in F3 last year, but is now making ammends in GP3. 8/10

Chances of getting to Formula 1: Gravity support should help him into GP2 next year, should he continue with his strong form. Impressing there from the off will be key to his chances of making it to the big time. At 23, he cannot afford to waste any time. 7/10

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Photo credits: GP3, Jakob Ebrey, Alexander Sims, GP3

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Lewis Williamson

Name: Lewis Williamson
Date of birth: 11 November 1989 (age 21)
Nationality: British
Currently: 6th in GP3 standings

After a successful karting career in Scotland and Britain, Lewis made his first steps into single-seaters with a guest drive in Formula Jedi. He qualified in pole position and won his first ever car race. He then contested the Formula Renault UK Winter Series, in a car leased by Highland Arena, a company set up by family friends to promote sporting talent from the Scottish Highlands. He scored two podium finishes from four races to end up sixth in the final standings.

Lewis contested the full Formula Renault UK season with CRS Racing in 2009, scoring two podium finishes and ending tenth in the final standings. He switched to Manor Competition for 2010, claiming five victories and nine podium finishes. He finished the season as runner-up, narrowly missing out on the title.

At the end of the year he took part in a GP3 Series test after a last minute phone call with Atech CRS boss David Hayle. He topped the timesheets on his first day in the car and was quickest again on the following day. His performance impressed the GP3 teams and he would eventually be signed by MW Arden for the 2011 season.

In December 2010 Lewis won the prestigous McLaren Autosport BRDC Award, after a series of evaluation tests in different machinery at Silverstone.

Before the 2011 GP3 season got underway Lewis was chosen by Red Bull to substitute for their driver Daniel Ricciardo at the ISR team in Formula Renault 3.5 at the season opener at Motorland, while Ricciardo was attending the Chinese Grand Prix. A gearbox issue before the first race prevented him from scoring any points, but the support from Red Bull has continued into his GP3 campaign, where he is wearing their logos.

A tangle with another driver in his first GP3 race in Turkey meant he scored no points from the first weekend of the season. That trend continued at Barcelona but he scored a pole position for the next round at Valencia, finishing the race second. He then scored his first victory in the series at Silverstone on the morning of the British GP. He lies sixth in the standings at the halfway stage, just ten points off the lead.

Talent rating: Despite a late move into single-seaters Lewis has proven his talent since then, finishing runner-up in Formula Renault and then impressing immediately behind the wheel of a GP3 car. He remains in with a chance of the title in GP3 at his first attempt, and has clearly impressed Red Bull. 8/10

Chances of getting to F1: His current form makes him deserving of moving up the ladder, but funding could be an issue. His best hopes are with Red Bull, and being made an official member of their Junior Team. If so, they will probably place him in FR3.5, and perhaps take him to F1 one day. 7/10

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 Photo credits: GP3/Lewis Williamson/DPPI